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Electrolytes While Fasting? The Key to Unlocking a More Comfortable Fast
Intermittent Fasting

Electrolytes While Fasting? The Key to Unlocking a More Comfortable Fast

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Published on 2022 July 13
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6 min

If you’re experimenting with intermittent fasting, you’ll soon be aware of the countless questions that arise. One of them is what breaks a fast and what products are okay to consume while fasting.

Electrolytes while fasting

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It’s not as simple as cutting out meals. There are certain things to consider to avoid missing out on essential nutrients. Without the essentials, your food abstinence becomes a lot harder to bear. 

Electrolytes are necessary to human health, with several vital functions. They keep us hydrated, support good bone health, and regulate muscle and nerve function. 

As it’s easy to break the fasting period without a strict contingency plan, you might be wondering about electrolytes while fasting. 

To give you peace of mind, we’ve covered everything you need to know about electrolytes while practicing intermittent fasting. 

Can I Take Electrolytes While Fasting? 

Yes, without a doubt. In fact, you need more electrolytes when fasting, especially with extended fasting periods.

Electrolytes serve several functions that are imperative to the human body. To cut them out at any time, especially when intermittent fasting, is a bad idea. 

Your regular functions become impaired without adequate electrolytes, and your body reacts with negative symptoms. You may experience dizziness, confusion, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, and muscle cramping, among others.

When symptoms arise, it’s vital to restore lost electrolytes as quickly as possible.

Outside of intermittent fasting, most people get ample electrolytes from various foods and drinks. Sports drinks are a prevalent choice for electrolyte restoration. 

But when fasting, it’s a different story. As your new diet doesn’t permit you to eat and drink as you please, you’re not consuming electrolytes as usual.

So, you must turn to alternative sources to maintain an electrolyte balance. Ultimately, you’re looking for electrolyte supplementation that won’t break your fast, but more on that later.

Why Electrolytes Are Important for Fasting

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that support the entire body’s cellular function, from the brain cells to vital organs. Key electrolytes include sodium, potassium chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

When electrolyte levels deplete, it has an impact on your overall health. You will experience neurological symptoms, notably muscle cramps, headaches, confusion, and nausea. 

An electrolyte deficiency paired with the challenges of intermittent fasting is the last thing you want to combat. So, it’s best to educate yourself on what you need for a successful fast.

There are a bunch of reasons why taking electrolytes during a fasting period is important. 

During extended fasting, you’re not eating like you normally would. Essentially, you cut out all calories during the fasting window. Without consuming calories, you’re consuming fewer electrolytes. 

For most people, weight loss is the end goal of intermittent fasting. If you’re working out as well as switching up your eating habits, you’re going to lose more electrolytes as you sweat. 

Overall, with intermittent fasting, your electrolyte levels take a hit. 

You can benefit significantly from these essential minerals during fasting if you keep on top of things. 

Here are two of the top benefits to expect from a healthy electrolyte balance:

#1 Better exercise performance

You lose sodium naturally through sweat when you exercise. If you don’t replenish low sodium levels, you may experience muscle cramps, low energy, hindered performance, and a slow recovery

Electrolytes are needed when you work out to ensure you stay hydrated. They keep joints lubricated, energy levels sufficient, and mitigate fatigue. 

Training while fasting is already tough on your body, and losing electrolytes won’t feel great. Don’t let your exercise performance suffer, especially if you’re committed to burning fat. 

#2 Improved energy 

Likely, you won’t be feeling yourself with intermittent fasting, particularly at the start, as the body requires time to adjust to a new way of operating.

Of course, cutting your calorie intake has its effects, but often electrolyte depletion is the root cause of all those symptoms mentioned earlier.

With electrolyte supplementation, you maintain muscle function and energy production to keep you on course with your fast. 

As fasting lowers insulin levels, your kidneys start expelling sodium and water, leaving you at risk of a deficiency. 

Is Salt an Electrolyte, and Does It Break a Fast? 

An essential electrolyte is sodium, otherwise known as salt. It’s a tricky one, as it’s important to get the balance right. 

Salt has a funny reputation, as too much can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. 

It’s also associated with weight gain, but not in the fat sense. Eating too much salt increases water retention, which can make your body weight fluctuate. However, salt contains zero calories, so it doesn’t increase fat, and therefore, consuming salt won’t break a fast. 

Sodium supplementation is imperative while fasting to control blood flow and blood pressure and maintain nerve and muscle function.  

Low sodium symptoms (hyponatremia) include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of energy 
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle spasms and muscle cramps

According to the FDA, the recommended daily sodium intake is less than 2,300 milligrams for healthy adults. If you’re new to intermittent fasting, consult your doctor before taking sodium supplementation to find a satisfactory amount based on your diet and activity level. 

Himalayan pink salt is often referenced with regards to intermittent fasting. It’s thought to reduce hunger pangs and balance electrolyte levels more easily than regular table salt. 

How to Get Electrolytes While Fasting

In an ideal world, you can take enough elements from eating the right foods during your feeding window. However, it’s not always possible on a strict IF diet. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to get enough electrolytes without your usual food intake. 

The best way to include electrolytes in your fasting period is to take them from sources that won’t disturb your transformative metabolic state. You can try the following:

  • Drinking water with sea salt or Himalayan pink salt 
  • Drinking water with a squeeze of citrus fruit, such as lemon or lime juice
  • Water with a little apple cider vinegar
  • Bone broth (the homemade kind to keep track of unnecessary calories)
  • Electrolyte powders 

Some electrolyte powders are perfect for those fasting but choose wisely, as many contain sugar and artificial sweeteners that you don’t need.

Intermittent fasting isn’t just about what you don’t eat. You need to optimize what you eat during eating windows to benefit your fast later. Avoid the wrong foods that have no significant benefit to your overall health. 

You can get sufficient electrolytes from the following examples: 

Sodium 

  • Adding a pinch of salt to meals
  • Sardines 

Potassium 

  • Avocado
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Dried fruits
  • Coconut water

Magnesium 

  • Leafy greens
  • Almonds 
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa 

Calcium 

  • Dairy products, including cheese and yogurt
  • Soybeans 
  • Green leafy vegetables

Phosphorus 

  • Meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Dairy products 
  • Whole grains 

The foods listed are rich in specific electrolytes, but most contain several in various amounts. 

A Word From Our RD

Electrolytes are essential minerals that all of us need for our bodies to function.

An electrolyte imbalance can be the root cause of many undesirable effects, such as headaches, drowsiness, and fatigue.

When you take a crack at intermittent fasting, the restrictive eating patterns can cause discomfort as your body is new to going long periods without food.

But often, it’s not just the lack of calories but the loss of important minerals.

To make the fasting journey as comfortable as possible, keep a close eye on your electrolyte consumption. That way, you can eliminate many of the adverse effects that occur during fasting.

The great news is electrolytes do not break a fast. You can enjoy the many health benefits without concerning yourself with breaking the rules. Soon enough, you will recognize the boost to your health from intermittent fasting.

Electrolytes and Fasting: The Perfect Pair

It’s good to ask the question, as there are a lot of things prohibited while fasting. 

Fortunately, electrolytes will not break a fast, so you can rest easy on that note. 

The two go hand in hand, as electrolytes restore your body with vital functions during the challenges of a fast. Quite simply, you need them to survive.

While sufficient electrolytes are sourced from multiple healthy foods and drink options, electrolyte supplements may be required if you still aren’t reaching your targets. 

Talk to your doctor before experimenting with electrolyte supplements of any kind.

Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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